Several schools offer online master's degree programs in clinical research. These programs are generally designed for physicians or other health professionals with terminal degrees, such as pharmacists, doctors and nurse practitioners. Although a few programs are totally online, most are hybrids that combine online and on-campus learning. There may be in-person clinical requirements as well.
Students may be able to choose a specialization such as health services outcomes or community medicine. Core courses may include epidemiology and biostatistics. Students gain an understanding of grant writing and learn to analyze data.
These programs are primarily focused on instruction in conducting research. Ethics and misconduct in research is discussed, and students learn how to develop and execute clinical trials. They also see what is involved in product development, explore current issues in human research protection and look at how health policy and economics are related. A thesis or publishable paper is usually required, along with many research papers from clinical studies conducted as part of the required coursework.
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Master of Science in Clinical Research (MSCR)
Graduate programs in clinical research are usually geared toward physicians, dentists, pharmacists, advanced practice nurses and others in the healthcare field. Students enrolled in the program will learn to conduct research -- especially patient-oriented research -- with consideration to the effectiveness of the methodology, the conscientious treatment of the patients and the timely delivery of results. The program is intensive to math, science and statistics, particularly biostatistics.
In almost all cases, applicants must have a terminal healthcare degree, such as an M.D., DDS, DNP or Pharm.D., prior to enrolling in an online master's degree program in clinical research. Alternately, applicants should have a Ph.D. in a related area, such as public health.
Distance-learning master's degree programs in this field require students to complete approximately 30-40 credit hours of instruction. The programs are typically hybrids, meaning that students complete some coursework online but also attend on-campus sessions and participate in on-site clinical training.
Students enrolled in this type of program often utilize online video and audio lecture files and use library archives to assist with research. Interaction with professors and fellow students in the Web-based classes is provided through e-mail, online discussion forums and chat or instant messaging services. In order to properly participate in online coursework, students must have up-to-date computer hardware and software equipment, high-speed Internet access and the most recent versions of their preferred Web browsers. A current media player is required for multimedia presentations.
List of Common Clinical Research Master's-Level Courses
Students embarking upon a master's degree in clinical research can expect extensive statistics, research design and ethics courses.
Clinical Research Principles
This distance-learning course includes such topics of study as quality assurance, bioethics, clinical investigation and drug trials. Students learn about research protocols, responsible conduct in patient-oriented research and how to judge the efficacy of research methodologies. Patents resulting from research may also be discussed.
Online biostatistics courses train students to analyze associations and variances when applying statistical techniques to biological data. The application of statistics specifically to public health research is emphasized.
This course introduces the study of diseases in large populations. Both infectious and non-infectious diseases are discussed, as well as their means of transmission. Students learn to apply research and analysis methods to epidemiologic data; for example, they might examine the mortality rate associated with a past disease outbreak to predict the impact of a future occurrence.
Career Information for MSCR Graduates
Doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare professionals usually pursue an online MSCR to advance their roles in medical research; graduates might be able to work as principal investigators on research projects rather than associates, for example. Medical professionals might also choose to earn this credential to enhance their applications to major research grants, like those awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Master of Science in Clinical Research programs may offer most if not all of its course work online and provide students with an understanding of clinical research principles, biostatistics and epidemiology. In-person requirements include on-site clinical training.